Okay take a break for a few minutes and watch this video.

Now as a piano teacher we hope each student is motivated by a love of music and our dream is that they enjoy the music enough to practice so they can grow and develop their skills at the piano.  Yet every piano teacher has that student – that one who is discouraged by the practicing or is only taking because their parents want them to.

So one of our tasks as piano teachers becomes developing the love of music within a child. This love of music must then include intrinsic motivation to practice or progress will not occur. What sparks that intrinsic motivation is different in everyone. Whenever I get together with colleagues or attend a MTNA conference, I love to hear about new ideas that worked for another teacher or an exciting piece that may just excite that one student.

For us here at 4D Piano Teaching, it’s such an important topic that we made it one of our 4D’s – Drive. We will continue sharing ideas and discussing this idea of developing intrinsic motivation in students because we believe it to be one of the most important things a teacher does daily in their studio.

Now one of my favorite books is Drive, by Daniel H. Pink. He shares research on the topic of motivation and its meaning in today’s world. He applies it mostly to the workplace, giving advice for managers but I’ve found it to easily apply to our piano studios as well. He writes, ““Careful consideration of reward effects reported in 128 experiments lead to the conclusion that tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation… Did the size of the reward to predict the quality of performance?… higher incentives led to worse performance,” (Pink pg. 37-39)

One hundred and twenty-eight experiments on the “reward effect” yet how often to we still see rewards and bonuses used today? For me, it’s become a challenge to find something deeper than points and trophies to motivate my students. I still resort to using rewards and sometimes outright bribery to get students to practice. But it’s true that once they finish that reward, they look for the next prize and want it to be bigger or better than the first one.

So what’s the right answer to develop intrinsic motivation in our studios? There are many answers as unique as our students themselves. I hope you’ll join us as we delve into this topic a bit more. PLEASE share your thoughts with us so we can learn from you as well.

Final quote from Pink – his idea for a solution to the problem of motivation. “Allow people to complete a task their own way. Think autonomy, not control. Autonomy is different from independence. It means acting with choice… To help your employees (your students) find autonomy, the best strategy for an employer (a teacher) would be to figure out what’s important to each individual employee… Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement,” (Pink pg. 62, 88, 108-109)

Author: Whitney

Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at 4DPianoTeaching.com